If you’ve been part of BNI for a while, you’re probably familiar with the notion of “Farming instead of hunting”. Newer members may be yet to hear about the concept. However, it’s a fundamental part of the BNI format that you may already understand, even if you haven’t heard it framed up this way yet.
Let’s take a look at hunting first.
When hunting, we seek out and obtain our prize. Once we’ve obtained it though, it ceases to be something we can seek out, as it’s already in our possession. We can hunt for similar prizes, but we can never seek out and obtain the same prize more than once. If we’re good hunters we can find and obtain our prize quickly, but only once.
How about farming?
Farmers take a different approach. They play the long game. Caring for animals to see them reproduce, and then raising the newborn offspring to maturity when they can become the prize, or can birth offspring of their own. In this way, the prizes are multiple and ongoing.
Are you a Hunter, or a Farmer?
In your BNI Chapter, do you hunt for referrals or farm for them?
Do you seek out referrals from your fellow members, or do you build great relationships with them that lead to introductions to great referral partners?
For example, let’s say you have a product to sell. Perhaps it’s IT equipment. If you were to target the members of your Chapter to sell laptops too, you might make a few sales. But once a member of your Chapter has bought a laptop from you, it’s probably going to be a fair while before they buy another one.
Farming instead of hunting.
But if you were to ask your fellow members for introductions to large businesses (asking specifically by the name of the decision maker and the company name of course), the resulting business could be larger. A referral to a large business exposes you to a potential customer who has ongoing IT needs. Not only would they purchase more than one laptop at a time, but they would have other IT requirements as well.
However, farming in a networking sense is most successful when keeping in mind the VCP process. VCP stands for Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. It’s another concept that many businesspeople tend to know regardless of any BNI involvement, even if its subconsciously. The concept suggests that to achieve profitability in a business relationship, you must first establish visibility and credibility with the person you’re in the relationship with.
Bluntly put, we’re asking a lot if we expect someone to refer their trusted contacts to us before we have first appeared on their radar, and secondly proven that we are worthy of the referral. If you’re not aware of me, I won’t be top of your mind. If I haven’t shown that I am trustworthy, diligent, honest, and capable, you won’t feel comfortable risking your reputation by referring me.